kindness activist

kindness activist

Sunday, May 12, 2024

In Memory of Adriana - May Her Plants Always Be Green and Her Smile Be Remembered

Color.  Me.  Tired.


Tired - but peaceful.


I had a great weekend at the Kindness Plant Sale.  I was a bit worried going into it – the woman who founded the Kindness Plant Sales and did a ton of work for all previous sales died 2 months ago.  Her name was Adriana Jokisch Sagrera.  And she was a kind, kind soul who left this earth way too soon.


One day a couple of years ago, Adriana messaged me and said that she had an idea.  How about, she asked, if she hosted a KINDNESS PLANT SALE??  It would be her and some other plant lovers, and they would do all the work.  They would propagate plants, put them in pots, nurture them…  And they would donate all of the proceeds to Kindness Activist.  All I would need to do is let them use our yard for the event (because we are in a well trafficked area). 


Ummm, YES!  Who could say no to that offer? 


And how she explained it was exactly how it worked.  She and the other “plant whisperers” came to our home, set up LOTS of beautiful plants, and I just popped outside, sat and chatted in the sunshine all day, and enjoyed the events.  It was amazing!  Everyone loved the Kindness Plant Sales and they were very successful in fundraising for the cause.


Adriana in her happy place - with plants, friends, sunshine, and being KIND


And the plant sales weren’t all Adriana did to support the mission.  Oh no – she went all out.  She made specially shaped crayons for the Advent Countdown Calendar.  She donated jewelry to Kindness Auctions.  She volunteered her time.  She gave jewelry making supplies to a woman from Ukraine who was staying with us.  She gave art supplies to a child we were hosting.  She donated her beautiful photo prints to help raise money for Kindness Activist.  She donated many, many items to Kindness Yard Sales over the years.  She brokered a Kindness Loan for a friend of hers in need (which was paid off just as set forth in the agreement).  She sent messages of support and love.  She gave me plant advice.  She loaned me her WEDDING GOWN when I was collecting some for a community member to choose from, and Adriana's dress was the perfect one.  The bride LOVED IT and wore it with pride.  She laughed at my jokes.  She reached out and asked if she could make special letter signs for the Kindness Yard Sale out of cool materials.  Those signs have been used for several sales.  And in the most recent Kindness Auction, she donated a jewelry making session for the winner and some friends.  I was bidding on it against someone else who really wanted it.  Adriana sent me a message telling me that even if I didn’t win the bid, she would love to host me and some friends to come to her home and make necklaces. 


Mermaid crayons made by Adriana - she made loads of fun shapes


She said YES to Adriana's dress

Adriana's letter signs
(her former co-worker made the P L A N T signs for this event,
the ones Adriana made include the letters Y A R D)


I am so grateful that she gave us that experience.  Three friends and I were welcomed into her home last winter. She had laid out case after case of beads.  Beads of every size, shape, and color.  It was amazing!  She gave us advice on putting our pieces together, and had to physically help me a lot (I am not, it turns out, a professional necklace maker…). 

The students and the master (we will wear our necklaces to her upcoming memorial service)

And then, too soon, she was gone.


So, this Kindness Plant Sale was in her honor.  We had a small table with a beautiful floral arrangement on it for her.  A note explained to shoppers who she was, and let everyone know when the upcoming memorial service will be.  Her husband and young son came to the sale and talked with her friends.  They saw the pots that they had lovingly donated after her death – we marked them with her name so that people in the community would know which were hers.  And twice during the sale we did toasts to Adriana – to her memory, her friendship, and her kindness.


Oh, she would’ve been happy with the event.  The sun shone.  The plants were beautiful.  And shoppers were generous.


So generous, in fact, that $4048.76 was raised for Kindness Activist.  In just 2 days.  Isn’t that astounding?  Over $4000!! 



And the money for the cause is not the only high point of the event.  Equally important in my mind is the COMMUNITY that events like this builds.  Neighbors meeting neighbors.  Old friends seeing one another again.  Newly arrived Arlingtonians being welcomed into the city.  Sighting of famous Arlington celebrities (Gary and Marc!). 


Some highlights for me of the weekend:

-         A little friend walked around the corner into the sale space all by herself.  “Where’s your mom?” I asked.  “In the car, over there,” she pointed.  “Ahhh, it is Mother’s Day, are you here to shop for her??”.  Bingo – she was looking for a special gift for her mother.  It was so sweet!  After discussing all of the possibilities – indoor, outdoor, in a pot, to put in the ground, favorite colors… she chose some black eyed Susans to plant in the garden and a colorful glass heart.  “Oh, here, I have a donation,” she said as she handed me some money.  So sweet.

-         Our artist friend was here for the sale.  On Saturday she painted portraits of guests.  She was so proud of her work and that everyone liked it.  Then on Sunday, she met a young woman who is graduating from high school and heading to college.  “I am so happy!” I heard her tell the young woman.  “You are so good!  Susan – she will study politics and be an IMMIGRATION LAWYER!”, said my friend who recently received her green card and couldn’t be prouder.  “I am a real person now!” she proclaimed.

-         Two young pantry guests stopped to get some food as I stood nearby chatting with a friend.  I asked if they needed any other food and they said no thank you.  They rode off on their bikes, but a few minutes later came back.  They approached and quietly asked, “Ummm, can we get a flower or something?”.  “Oh, for Mother’s Day?” I clarified.  “Yes please…”.  So, 2 cuties looked around and found the perfect plants for their mothers.  I bet those moms were delighted.

-         I got to meet some neighbors who I had only communicated with online.  What a joy to see their faces and have real conversation.  As I was talking with a couple, a pantry regular approached.  Only, before he reached the pantry, he stopped at the corner.  He sat down all of his things (including a boom box, which I have never seen him with before), then SAT DOWN on the sidewalk.  He leaned against the wooden pole of our fence.  I said goodbye to the neighbors and went over to the man.  “Excuse me sir, are you hungry?  Would you like something?  Maybe some soup?” I asked.  He said that he was hungry so I went inside to make him a dinner.  Hot soup, applesauce, iced tea, and a chocolate bar.  I served it to him right there on the pavement and he ate it up.  May have been the first hot meal he has had in a while.


So, while my body is physically exhausted from the work, and my heart is tired from the sadness of the world losing a beautiful human being, my SOUL IS SATISFIED.  I know that the hours put into this event did honor Adriana.  I know if she had been here, she would have laughed and chatted and taught and celebrated the success. 


Thank you, neighbors, for supporting Kindness Activist.


Thank you, friends, for staying up late with me laughing and making floral arrangements the night before the sale.


Thank you, community members, for donating so many vases, plants, bulbs, and pots.  And for making cupcakes and brownies.


Thank you, lemonade stand volunteers, for serving bright pink lemonade and melty Reeses Peanut Butter Cups with a smile.  $101.26 of the total proceeds were from the lemonade stand.


Thank you, Plant Whisperers, for nurturing, growing, and delivering plant after plant after plant for the sale, and being at the event to assist shoppers.

 

Thank you, Adriana, for making the world a better place.  You are missed.





Tuesday, April 30, 2024

If You Build It...

When we first opened the Little Yellow Free Pantry in 2021, I was worried.  Worried that we would not get enough visitors.


And the first few days, my worries were well founded.  A few people stopped by, but not many.


So, I made signs – printed them in multiple languages – and hung them in very visible locations on our fence so people walking and driving by our busy corner would see them.


We got a few more guests coming for food, but not many.


So, I made and laminated signs in English and Spanish and hung them at nearby bus stops.  I tried to hang one at the Department of Human Services office down the street, but a guard took it down.


And some more people came, but not many.


So – I had a grand idea.  I went to the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) to talk to the professionals!!  I had never been there, but just pulled up and talked to the first person I saw with a nametag standing outside the building.


I explained my “predicament” – that we had opened a Little Free Food Pantry, but we needed VISITORS!!  I floated the idea past him of perhaps advertising somehow at AFAC.


The man looked at me incredulously.  “Ma’am,” he said, “Do you know how many people we serve here??  You do not want to advertise (unspoken but clear in his inflection – “your little tiny operation”) at AFAC”.


Well ok then.  I drove back home and did a bit of research on AFAC.  If you Google the organization today, here is what you see as their stats for 2023:

·       140,635 total family visits – a 29.4% increase over last year

·       7,634 total families referred (18,942 individuals)

·       6,586 distinct families served (16,003 individuals)

·       5,375 children served

·       Average 2,712 families served per week

·       Of individuals served: 56% female, 33.6% children,12.8% senior, 52.5% Hispanic/Latinx, 19.9% Black,8.9% Asian, 11.7% White, 1.3% Other

·       Individuals with disabilities: 8.5% overall; 25% of seniors, 2.9% of children*

So, ummm, yeah, perhaps advertising at AFAC was not the right way to go…


Fast forward 3 years. 


The Little Yellow Free Pantry has pleeeeenty of guests!!!  In fact, sometimes the number of visitors, the back and forth from the storage shelves to the pantry to refill it over and over, and the amount of food required to keep the operation running is overwhelming.  But it is overwhelming in a good way, if that makes sense.


Well, last night I took it full circle.  I was asked to go with members of the Arlington Rotary Club to volunteer at AFAC!!  I was so excited!  I would get to see it “behind the scenes” and help in preparing food for the community.


Our volunteer job for the evening was taking large 50-pound bags of white rice and breaking them down into smaller bags, sealing those, and stacking them in crates.  A group of 11 volunteers worked for 1 hour, and in that time, we made 620 bags of right to be given to AFAC clients.  Isn’t that awesome?  And it was fun!!



(Though, I must confess, as we were scooping rice into bags, sealing them, stacking them – in the back of my mind I thought, “Susan, THIS SAME TASK IS WAITING TO BE DONE AT YOUR HOUSE!  The LYFP is out of small bags of rice and you need to decant the huge bags into smaller ones!  You should be doing this for your pantry, too!”.  And, as soon as I came home, I messaged the friend who did “rice duty” for the LYFP last time and asked if she could come do it again soon (she can!). And trust me, the bags of rice we are dealing with for our tiny pantry are NOT 50 lbs each 😊 .)



I was so happy to get to visit and help out at AFAC.  And, I must confess, equally happy to come home to our muuuuch smaller, scaled-down version of community food distribution. 


Because everybody deserves good food.


*Note: I wish that I could share statistics as extensive as AFAC’s to demonstrate the population that relies on the Little Yellow Free Pantry.  I wish I could tell you the number of people, how many families, children, people with disabilities, etc. come get food.  But here’s the thing: there are no rules or requirements to use the Little Yellow Free Pantry.  You don’t need to register.  You don’t need to show papers.  And you are not “checked in” when you visit.  It is private, anonymous (except for the guests I have become friends with), and open 24/7.  Sadly, that makes it impossible to track the statistical impact.  But I will tell you this: 100% of the guests of the Little Yellow Free Pantry are GRATEFUL.  That may be the only statistic we can “track”, but it is good enough for me. 

If you would like to help stock the LYFP, we these are the current urgent needs:

-         Single serving boxes/bowls of cereal, any flavors (we are totally out)

-         Spaghetti-Os or canned ravioli (we are totally out)

-         Packets of Indian vegetarian meals (we are totally out)

-         Microwave popcorn (we have 2 single serving bags left and will be out by morning)

-         Honey (a pantry staple, we have only 3 bottles left)

-         Almond milk (almost out)

-         Jelly, any flavor (running low)

-         Single serving packs of oatmeal

-         Single serving drinks of any kind (except water and milk (we have enough of those for now) or soda) – like Capri Suns, juice boxes/bottles, coconut water (we are out), cans of lemonade, V8 blends, cans of iced tea, etc.

-         Canned items that are not vegetables or fruit – things like evaporated milk, peppers, olives, bamboo shoots, salsa, Rotel, etc.

-         Single serving cups of ravioli (2 left)

 If you are local to the metro DC area, there is a tan and green plastic bin on our front porch in South Arlington for donations.  Please put items there and not directly into the pantry.  Message me for the address if you need it.  If you would like to order from the Amazon wish list, here is a link.  You can click on “sort” then “high to low” to see the items most needed on top.  Click here for the Kindness Activist Wish List

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Flowers of Kindness

Whenever I give talks about Kindness Activist, people ask how it all started.


Well, it started as a bit of an experiment.  I was at a low point in my life, and decided to purposefully look for kindness.  I guess I wanted to make sure it still existed in the world, I don’t know.


I looked.  I saw it.  It made me happy.  I was hooked.


Fast forward years later. 


I still look for it.  And I still have periods where I am too sad, too busy, too inattentive to find it.


But now I know.  I know that if I stop.  Take a deep breath.  Open not only my eyes, but my heart, I will see it.  Because it is everywhere.  This I believe.


And I also now know the value of SPREADING the kindness.  And I am continually grateful that Kindness Activist allows me the joy of doing just that.


So here is a quick story of one of today’s kindnesses.  I was in Trader Joe’s, ironically ordering some things for another act of kindness that is happening next week.  I was standing at the customer service counter placing my order when two women rushed up, obviously very upset.


“A woman just stole my wallet right out of my purse!!  Do you have video cameras in your aisles???” they asked loudly and angrily.


The Trader Joe’s employee assured them that there were cameras, but they would need to file a police report and have a case number to access the footage.  The women, shaken, left the store.


I finished my order.  Bought a few things.  Shopped in the store next door.  But I kept thinking about the woman whose wallet was stolen.  What a horrible thing to have happen.


I took another stroll around the aisles of Trader Joe’s to see if the women were still there but I didn’t see them.  I headed to my car just as a police cruiser pulled up.  “Ah ha,” I thought, “Maybe the women are still here and have been waiting on the cops so they can file a report.”


Sure enough that was the case.  The officers started filling out the paperwork as the women stood by their car.


So, I went back into the grocery store and picked out the brightest, prettiest bouquet I could find.  I purchased it, then went outside to where the officer was finishing up the report. 

 


“Excuse me,” I said as I approached.  “I was at customer service and heard what happened to you.  I am really sorry – how awful.  I wanted to get you these to brighten your day.  I hope the rest of your weekend is better,” and I handed her the flowers.


Her whole demeanor changed.  The tension in her face melted.  She looked me in the eyes and thanked me.  “May I hug you??” she asked.  Of course!


So, two women stood in the parking lot of a grocery store and hugged, as a police officer in a bulletproof vest looked on.


“Thank you.  Oh, thank you,” she said.  “It could have been so much worse.  At least no one was hurt”. 

 

And just like that, she was reminded that even when things are really bleak, there is kindness. 


And it was nothing fancy, nothing expensive.  More than the flowers, it was the fact that someone noticed and cared.


Kindness is all around you, I promise.  So are opportunities for YOU to be kind. 


You just have to keep your eyes (and your heart) open to see them.


Kindness Activist funds spent:  $10.59

Thursday, April 11, 2024

From Soldiers to Snow

It has been a while since I have written an accounting update that contains more than one act of kindness, so I shall sit down this evening to do just that!  Here we go.


This first act of kindness was very moving.  If you recall, Kindness Activist sent a big box of treats not too long ago to American soldiers stationed overseas.  Well, this time it was Ukrainian soldiers turn.


I saw that one of my friends, a Ukrainian woman who is living in our community while her country is ravaged by war, was making food for soldiers that were brought to the US for treatment.  I had no idea that occurring, but as soon as I found out, I hoped we could do something – any small gesture – to show them that they are welcome here and that they are appreciated.  So, I contacted my friend and she explained that the men being sent to the US for treatment were and those in need of very difficult prosthetics.  I asked it would be possible for me to bring them gifts.  She confirmed it would be fine, let me know where they would be, and set up a time for me to go.


My partner David and I spent about an hour roaming up and down the Target aisles trying to figure out what would be good to give the soldiers.  We wanted the gifts to be things they would use while they were here (not have to lug them back to Ukraine) and things that would help them be comfortable and/or happy.  We settled on a wide variety of snacks, drinks, decks of cards, and a nice greeting card for each of them.  I packaged everything in blue bags tied with yellow ribbons – the colors of their homeland.  I wrote a message in English to put in the cards, then sent it off to my friend to translate into Ukrainian.  We wrote:


Thank you for working to make the world a safer place.  Thinking of you and your family, and wishing you a future full of peace and love.


Then off I drove – not sure if I would hand the bags to a receptionist, meet the soldiers, or what.


I was very honored that I actually got to see the men in person and thank them.  They were happy to get the gifts.  A translator interpreted a short conversation for us, and I turned to go.  “Don’t you want a picture??” the woman working with them asked.  I didn’t want to make the event seem like a photo opportunity, but she seemed to want a picture for their organization too, so I went back and stood with the soldiers for this lovely photo.

The soldiers

The gift bags

Total Kindness Activist funds spent:  $176.38

Number of wishes that these soldiers will someday be able to live in a country free of war: Infinite

 

Sometimes when we are out shopping, we use that time to do something kind for other people.  I mean, we are already there at the store, why not treat someone??  Because getting out to the store can be difficult for people, what with kids, transportation, work, gas…


So, one evening when I was at Dollar Tree, I posted in a local online group to say where I was and ask if anyone needed anything.  I said I would treat a couple of people - $10 budget each ($10 goes quite a long way at Dollar Tree!) and I would deliver the items. Responses popped in right away.  One person needed some basic supplies for their home – toothpaste, toothbrushes, garbage bags, tape, toilet paper, dish soap, paper towels.  That was easy enough to collect.  During another shopping trip to Dollar Tree, someone requested snacks – easy peasy.  And one person asked for supplies for an altar for the Day of the Dead – 4 glass candles and multi-colored tissue paper. 

Completed altar for Day of the Dead

These acts of kindness are not expensive.  They are really more about the gift of time and availability than the cost.  They are simple and fun to do.

Household supplies
 

Total Kindness Activist funds spent: $29.22

 

This January our area had predictions of a BIG SNOW.  This had everyone very excited!!  And because we have so many immigrants in our area, some of people have never seen snow.  So, those people were even MORE EXCITED!!


Everyone was asking around for sleds and snowsuits and mittens and shovels…  That’s when I saw a request – did anyone have a sled for some children to use who were experiencing their FIRST SNOW???


We hurried to the store to see if there were any left.  We hunted and hunted, but there were none to be found.  The shelves were picked clean of winter play gear.  But then we saw it – the last sled!  It was not a traditional one, it was a blow up one.  We grabbed it.  We hunted more and found a snow brick maker hidden on a shelf – we will take it!!  And we scored 3 “snow painters”, too.  And of course, we HAD to add hot cocoa and marshmallows...  I rushed home to fill the sled with air and then delivered it all to one happy parent.  I can only imagine how loud the squeals of delight were when the kids whooshed down a snowy hill.

 


Total Kindness Activist funds spent:  $40.86


Monday, March 18, 2024

5 1/2 Year Old Kindness

 I thought about waiting to share this story until after the entire acts of kindness related to it are finished, but I am excited to tell you about it, and I also like to write when things are still fresh in my memory.  So here is a quick update on…

 JUNE BUG’S KINDNESS HOT COCOA STAND!

If you follow Kindness Activist you will remember that recently a sweet little girl named June Bug hosted a hot cocoa stand to raise money for us!  In a short 2.5 hours, this little dynamo raised $1118.75 – all to be used to spread kindness!!!  (Note – that number is slightly higher than what was previously shared as a couple of donations for cocoa came in after the fact).


Since the cocoa stand was HER idea and since she put so much effort into it, of course my little friend is involved in deciding how the money will be used.  She and her mamma came over one evening to brainstorm ideas of how she would like to spread kindness.  Here are some of the things that she came up with:

-         Give gifts to the teachers and staff at her former pre-school (shhh, don’t tell them because this is still in the works, but “lip chap” is one of her ideas to treat them…)

-         Buy gifts for sick kids at Children’s National Hospital (where her mom was a nurse, and where she has been a patient)

-         Buy things for a classroom (we have chosen a local classroom that has 4 students, all with autism)

-         Pay for people’s meals at an iconic local restaurant – Weenie Beenie (I suspect that she wants to do this one because she wants to eat at Weenie Beenie…)


So, with those ideas to get us started, I picked June Bug up this weekend and we went shopping!


First stop – the grocery store to buy SNACKS for the classroom.  We had some ideas of what the students like (and allergies) from talking with the teacher, so June Bug picked out some terrific items.  She got juices, popcorn, tasty cereal bars, and goldfish crackers.  She even picked out some very special juice bottles with characters on top (we agreed that the students will love them!).

Treats for a classroom

Then off to Target.  But before we could even go inside, we saw something we needed to check out – a young woman selling painted rocks.  They were beautiful!  We talked to the artist and her mother, and it turned out that the woman was Deaf and was selling her artwork because her hearing aid had broken and she needs a new one.  Insurance won’t cover it, so she is raising money to purchase it.

The artist and the activist

It was hard to choose what to buy (there were so many pretty ones!) but June Bug picked a piece of watermelon rock and a rainbow with a cloud rock.  Fun!  We talked about who those would be for and she thought she may give one to her “Sister Cousin” and keep one for herself.  Later that plan changed to give both to her cousins.  So sweet.


Once inside Target, we started in the BOOK section, because books were on her list of things that kids in the hospital needed.  She very deliberately looked for and chose books that she has at home, as she knows those.  “Oh, this is a good one!!!  Let me show you Kindness Susan!” she told me as she turned page after page of a book about a fish.  We ended up with a few books, one nice sticker book (which she has at home, too), 3 coloring books, and crayons to go with those. 


We grabbed some sensory toys for the classroom and the markers that the teacher had requested, then ON TO THE TOY DEPARTMENT!


I feared this part might be difficult.  I mean, June Bug is 5 years old (5 ½ if you ask her)…  Imagine shopping up and down the toy aisles looking only for things for other people and not yourself at that age…


But she was great!  We had written down some ideas of what she thought children at the hospital would want, so we started with one of those: a doll (how to choose?  But she did!).  Then another thing on her list: a stuffy.  She went for a chocolate brown teddy bear, one of the softest I have ever felt.  She decided it would be ok for her to snuggle that in the store and the car on the way home, and I agreed.  She also chose a game, some cool balls, some small wooden train cars, and I talked her into a little lap art desk set and a Rubik’s cube (“For the older kids, June Bug!” I told her.)  I talked her OUT of a musical piano and a MICROPHONE (“June Bug, I am not so sure the nurses would like the children to have those…  Don’t you think they would be a bit, oh, I don’t know, NOISY for a hospital???”)


She added some “lip chap” for the sick children, then our cart was quite full and we thought we were done.  But I remembered the ROCKS.  “June Bug, would you maybe like to give the rocks to people HERE at the store?” I asked her.  She smiled her great big smile and her eyes twinkled.  “Yes, Kindness Susan!!”.  She loved the idea. 


But who to give them to… 


I saw a woman in a wheelchair looking at some shoes.  I pointed her out and asked if perhaps she would be a good rock recipient.  June Bug thought she would, so we approached.  I told her before we got to the woman that she needed to speak up nice and loud, and she did.  She explained we had a very pretty rock that we would like to give her, and handed the watermelon rock to the woman. 


The woman was so happy!  “Oh my goodness, I COLLECT ROCKS!” she told us.  “And this one is beautiful!!”  June Bug and I were both so pleased that we had chosen her to give the rock to.   I am not sure which made the woman happier – getting to talk to a delightful young girl, or adding a pretty rock to her collection.  Either way, June Bug’s gift made her day.


For the 2nd rock we hunted down someone working in the store.  June Bug decided it should go to someone working hard, and we found the right person: a woman putting the carts and baskets away.  She, too, was delighted to get a gift from a young Kindness Activist.  She asked June Bug her name and shared hers – CiCi.  She was very thankful (and I am quite sure that rock created a kindness ripple was spread throughout the store after we left when CiCi told all of her co-workers what had happened).


June Bug was in charge of checking everything out at the self-check (sorry Target guy, she didn’t mean to ring up those items twice and make you come over and assist us not one time but two…). 

Some of June Bug's excellent purchases

After I dropped my little friend back at her house, I thought about the “coincidences” that had happened that afternoon.  We noticed a person selling rocks outside Target (which I have never seen before).  We stopped to chat.  The person was Deaf, and I am a sign language interpreter so could communicate easily with her.  We could donate to help fund her new hearing aid.  And out of everyone in the store, we happened to choose a woman who COLLECTS ROCKS to gift one to.


But really, I don’t think those things are coincidences.  I love when things like that happen.  I honestly believe that they happen to all of us, and much more often than we know.  If we open our eyes and our hearts and pay attention to the world around us, we notice them.  Try it!


My friend and I still have much more to do – we need to deliver the gifts we have purchased, get the teacher gifts prepared, go to Weenie Beenie…


I am looking forward to it!  Spending time with young, KIND kids is inspiring.  Kids get it.  They are great role models.


Kindness Activist funds spent:

Snacks and toys for the classroom: $63.71

Rocks: $30 (we paid more than the asking price, and purchased 2 more as we were leaving the store)

Things for sick kids at the hospital: $191.99


Getting to spend the afternoon seeing kindness through the eyes of a child: priceless.

Sunday, February 4, 2024

All Are Welcome

I was thinking about what to name this story…  Several possibilities popped into my head:


“Two Worlds Colliding”

“Coming In, Going Out”


And others in that same vein.  The concept being – opposite things happening simultaneously.


But the more I considered it, I realized that my framework for the story was entirely off.  It was not opposites.  Nothing “collided”.  Instead, it is a story of coexistence.  Of humanity, and how we are all alike and all are welcome.


So that is what it shall be called.  “All Are Welcome”.


Now the story.


Yesterday Kindness Activist hosted a very fun event – June Bug’s Hot Cocoa Stand.  It was a fund raiser and the brainchild of a lovely neighbor and friend, five-year-old June Bug.  Wait, she is precisely 5 ½, because, as she told me with a gleam in her eyes when she arrived to prepare for the big event, “Kindness Susan!  Today is my half birthday!!”.


June Bug conceived of this grand idea while volunteering one afternoon with her mamma.  As they worked to seal packets of rice, little June Bug hatched her plan.  A HOT COCOA STAND.


It all happened yesterday and it was so fun.  Many, many people came – including lots of June Bug’s family, friends, and classmates.  The sun shone.  The cocoa flowed.  The toppings and cookies were plentiful.  The fire pit crackled and s’mores and marshmallows were enjoyed.


We started at 2:00 pm, and about an hour into the festivities I saw a man waiting at the corner for the light to change to cross the street.  I recognized him as a pantry guest.  I rushed to talked to him before he crossed and let him know that today was a special day and we were serving hot chocolate.  “Would you like some?” I asked.  Well, the smile was enough of an answer, followed by, “Hot chocolate?  Well yeah!!!”.  I brought him over to the stand and grabbed him a cup.  I gave the server, June Bug’s grandma, a little look that I think she understood – this one is on the house.  I took him to the topping bar, got him some cookies, and left him to enjoy his treats.


When I saw him next his cup was empty and the cookies were gone.  He politely asked, “May I have another cup?”.  Well sure!  Seconds on hot chocolate, seconds on cookies. 


He stayed for quite a long time.  I think he chatted with a few people.  At one point I saw him sitting on the sidewalk, taking in the sunshine, his legs stretched out in front of him.  And I remembered – this was the Pantry guest that happened to walk by a year ago during the 2nd birthday party we hosted for the Little Yellow Free Pantry.  We invited him to join in the fun that day, too, and he happily came under the canopy we had set up to try and keep us dry from the rain.  He ate snacks, drank drinks, and chatted that day, too.


The “completed-ness” of the situation made my heart happy.  Here were guests coming to support June Bug and Kindness Activist, pitching in far more than a cup of cocoa was actually worth.  Donating for the CAUSE – spreading kindness.


And here was a man who is a recipient of that very kindness when he stops by the pantry a few times a week.  He likely spends much of his time alone.  I have never seen him with anyone, and I doubt he gets invited to places or parties. 


And there we were.  All together.  All enjoying the weather and the conversation and the cocoa.


Because when you think about it, we are all the same.


And ALL ARE WELCOME.

 


P.S. – As I was sitting down to write tonight, our doorbell rang.  That is not uncommon around here, but it was getting a bit late.  I answered the door and found a man on the porch, another pantry guest.  He is very sweet – I often heat up meals for him.  I assumed that is what he was stopping by for tonight, though I don’t think he has ever rang the bell before.  I noticed right away that he was sporting a warm stocking cap he had picked up from Project Warmth.  We don’t share a common language, so the conversations between us are rudimentary.  I pointed to his warm hat, smiled, and said, “Nice!  Good!”.  He smiled back and pointed to Project Warmth, showing me where he had gotten it.  “Today – no,” he said, touching his head, explaining that before he picked that hat up, he didn’t have one.  Then he turned my attention to something sitting at the foot of our sidewalk.  “TV??” he asked.  “Oh, no,” I tried to explain, “Not mine.  No.”  He smiled and said, “No!  Me!  Find.  TV?”.  I could tell it was a computer monitor, but thought I should come out and check it anyway.  We walked down the steps and I examined it.  “No,” I said, using the snapping fingers “rats” gesture, “Computer.”


He smiled.  He had hoped that the treasure he must’ve found on the side of the road was a television.  He had no need for a monitor.  “You want?” he asked politely.  So kind – sharing his finds.  “No thank you.  Have,” I explained. 


I offered dinner, he said today he had eaten.  We said good night.  He got back on his old bike, picked up the monitor, and road off into the darkness.


He had just stopped by for a little tech support.  Because he knows, all are welcome.